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Man Who Killed Wife While High Gets 30 Year Sentence

By Rick Sallinger

DENVER (CBS4) - A Denver man who said marijuana edibles were responsible for him murdering his wife has been sentenced to 30 years in prison.

A judge ruled on Friday that Richard Kirk should get the maximum sentence as part of a plea deal for the shooting murder of his wife Kristine, 44, in April 2014. Kirk pleaded guilty to second degree murder in February.

A tearful Kirk told the court during the sentencing that if he "had not taken a marijuana edible his wife Kristine would be here today."

Her mother Mari Kohnke dismissed her son-in-law's statement of remorse.

Richard Kirk
Richard Kirk (credit: Denver Police Department/CBS)

"We have heard nothing from him for three years and there was plenty of opportunity," she said.

With tears, Kohnke told the judge she and her husband have taken in the Kirk's three boys, who are 10, 14 and almost 16.

A letter from one of the boys was read to the court which stated, "Dear Mom, I know you can hear me. I know I can hear you."

The murder happened at the family home in Observatory Park, where the defense claimed Richard Kirk took the pot to reduce opioid addiction from back pain.

Prosecutors had argued that he had the wherewithal to remember the code to a locked gun safe and pressed the weapon to his wife's head and fired while she was on the phone with a 911 operator. Kristine Kirk had called 911 frantically saying her husband had used marijuana was acting erratically and had a gun.

Pat Milligan, a friend of Richard Kirk, told the court, "He was not an evil man. He took a piece of marijuana candy for relief and a few hours later lost everything he had."

Kristine, Kris Kirk
Kristine Kirk (credit: Family of Kristine Kirk)

Kirk had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity due to the effect of the pot but later changed his plea so his children would not have to go through a trial.

"He could have ended it a lot earlier and admitted what he did," Kohnke told CBS4.

Kirk addressed the court himself, saying "unknowingly it was my hand that shot and killed her."

Saturday would have been Kristine's 47th birthday. Her sister, Tammy Heman, told reporters there will be a balloon release in her memory.

"And we just ask everybody that has a been touched by her story to please remember Kris," she said.

Prosecutor Helen Morgan told the court: "There can be no justice when a father murdered a mother in their own home."

A lawsuit filed on behalf of the children accuses the maker and seller of the edibles Kirk ingested of failing to properly warn of potential side effects. It states that recklessness led to their mother's death.

RELATED STORIES: Marijuana Legalization Story Archive

In 2014 there were few requirements about labeling and packaging of marijuana edibles. Since then, numerous regulations have been put in place, and more are being considered.

CBS4's Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.

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